Protests in the closed centers

Februari 2024

Closed Centre 127bis

– Hungerstrike

In a wing of the 127 bis detention centre in Steenokkerzeel, in reaction to their detention and the inhumane conditions in which they are being held, some people are trying to form a union. To counter this mobilisation and protest movement, they were subjected to repression and censorship. It is therefore particularly difficult to get in touch with them. 

However, they did manage to let us know that, as a result, 35 people started a hunger strike on 10 February. They asked to meet the Immigration Office in person and demanded freedom for all! On 13/02/2024, in a second wing of the 127bis detention centre, 28 men also started a hunger strike, in protest against their detention and in solidarity with the others. 

At first, the employees didn’t seem to care about their demands or their state of health: “Security doesn’t give a damn and looks at us like animals”.

On 19/02/24, numbers of detainees were still on hunger strike. Faced with the absence of any reaction or consideration for what they were going through, they tried other means of making demands. In response to these revolts, and out of fear of the extent of the protests, 127 bis called in the police. Some people were deported and many others were put in solitary confinement and then transferred to other closed centres. These people are still in isolation. What freedom of expression and demonstration is left for these people whose rights are constantly being trampled underfoot? 

They testify: 

“We have the right to nothing

“Help us, we’re going to die. This is torture, madam”.

 “There are people who have papers, who pay taxes, who have nothing to do here”.

 “They bring back 10 [new] people to let go of 5, sometimes they bring back 5 [new] people to let go of 2 or 3”.  

 “It’s the system at the centre that pushes people to do stupid things outside when they get out, to become criminals”.

– A detained minor at 127 bis

 A 16-year-old boy was violently arrested at the Immigration Office and has been held at 127 bis since 7 February. An appeal against his detention has been lodged but does not yet appear to have been successful. As of Saturday 24 February, he is still in detention, thankfully supported by his fellow inmates.

Closed Centre Caricole

– Collective protest action

A detainee at Caricole told us about the physical and verbal violence he suffered during an attempted deportation: The police put him in a dark room and told him “you’re going to go back, we’re going to force you, you’ll see”. They gave him some clothes and about twenty minutes later, 5 police officers came in, handcuffed him, tied his feet and tried to put him in the van. He fell twice on his back. A policeman grabbed his hands and lifted him up. They hit him on the foot, behind the buttock. When he arrived at the airport, the pilot and an airline employee prevented him from boarding. He was hit again, twice on the arms. He couldn’t move.

In reaction to the police violence suffered by one of the detainees during his attempted deportation, fellow detainees took part in a collective protest action aimed at denouncing not only the violence perpetuated during deportations, but also the lack of legal support and the absence of medical care in the closed centres.  ( 

On 13 February, many people went to the Caricole and 127 bis detention centres to show their solidarity and shout out their support.

When contacted by journalists, the Foreign Nationals Office, as is all too often the case, denies the reality of what is being experienced and denounced by detainees!

Testimony of a lady at Caricole 

“Having to flee your country for serious reasons and finding yourself in a prison in a country where you have no one, that’s really hard.”

Closed Centre Bruges

At the Bruges detention centre, too, the inmates tell us about their great isolation and the lack of basic care. Recently, they told us that many have contracted scabies and that there is a cruel lack of medical care and follow-up.

A prisoner’s account of life in Bruges : “M. is now called alpha12. Inmates’ first and last names are no longer used. He sleeps in a 20-person dormitory with clothing checks several times a day. The schedule is very strict. Rise at 8am, breakfast, passing the time (“activities” at last), eating, passing the time, eating and curfew at 10.30pm (after a final clothes check). All of this is complemented by 2×30 minutes outside (the inner courtyard of an old building – in itself very pretty – in which several small areas (3?) are surrounded by huge secure fences). Visits: check ++. First remove all unnecessary clothing. Remove shoes. Pass through the security gate. Body search, foot massage (you never know if drugs or other substances are stuck to your feet). For visitors, clothes check after the visit. Possibility of “special room”. Afterwards, a thorough clothing check. The “visitor” has to get naked and flex its knees. “

Closed Centre Merksplas

Received messages:

“I’m giving you my name in case I disappear”.

“I’m counting on you to repatriate my body to my mum in Morocco”.

“A perturbed man undresses completely in the yard. The inmate says to the guard “this gentleman is ill”, and the guard replies “no, he’s just being clever”. Result: solitary confinement.

“If you react to a guard’s derogatory remark, you get a warning. At the third warning, it’s solitary confinement”.



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